It's all over for Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian who surprised the bike racing world with his win in the 2012 Giro d'Italia.
After struggling for the first half of this year's Giro, his team Garmin-Sharp, announced Friday morning that Hesjedal is withdrawing from the event. He had been getting progressively slower, and obviously suffering at the back of the peleton, since last Saturday's gruelling Stage 8 time trial. By Stage 10, on Tuesday, he was barely capable of finishing the race, which has been marred by rain, cool temperatures and several horrific crashes.
"It's heartbreaking," he said in a statement released by Garmin-Sharp. "I want to be here for my team and for all the people who have supported me to get me here to this point. I built my entire season around the Giro and I came here feeling great, but I have been suffering since the TT. We're working on it, but we're not sure what's wrong."
The team's physician, Shannon Sovndal, said: "We've been trying to uncover what's going on with Ryder. He came into the race in stellar form, ready to defend his title, and clearly he's been suffering since the TT. His condition is not improving so we decided it's time for him to go home, get testing done, and focus on getting healthy again."
Hesjedal wasn't the only star to withdraw from the Giro, the second most important race in the European Grand Tour, after the Tour de France. Sir Bradley Wiggins of Britain is also out, citing a chest infection. The Team Sky rider is a seven-time Olympic medalist and the Tour's defending champion. His goal is to get healthy by the time the Tour starts on June 29. "His chest infection has been getting worse and our primary concern is always the health of our riders," said Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford.
Wiggins was one of he the favourites to win Giro and initially came on strong. But he fell in the rain on Stage 7 a week ago and had a disappointing performance in his specialist event, the time trial in Stage 8. He was 13th place in the Giro's general classification by the time he withdrew.
With Wiggins and Hesjedal out of the running, some of the pressure will come off race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.
There was no word Friday whether Hesjedal, who is 32 and from Victoria, B.C., will compete in the Tour. He entered last year's Tour, but crashed out early.
"Yesterday's stage was just too much for me," he said. "I fought to get through it and I know everyone suffered but after seeing the medical staff last night, I also know that it's time for me to go home, get some tests done and get healthy again. I have tried my best to honour the number one bib number, the race, my team and fans and its devastating to leave this way. Going home now is heartbreaking."